The Armenian authorities are committed to separating business from politics despite the fact that dozens of government-linked businesspeople are again running for parliament, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on Wednesday.
The wealthy individuals, virtually all of them incumbent parliamentarians, make up the vast majority of the ruling Republican Party’s candidates in 33 of the country’s 41 single-mandate electoral districts.
Sarkisian denied any contradiction between their involvement in the parliamentary race and President Serzh Sarkisian’s November statement that “business must be consistently separated from the state system.” He argued that they are running on an individual, rather than party-list basis.
“We stand by our statements,” the prime minister told journalists. “Businessmen will not enter the parliament through the Republican Party’s [proportional representation] list. That principle is upheld by our decisions.”
Asked to comment on why Armenian entrepreneurs remain keen to have parliament seats or even ministerial portfolios, Tigran Sarkisian said, “When people will see that doing business is more convenient if they are not ministers or deputies, they will resist that temptation,”
Well-to-do candidates with strong government connections have traditionally done well in Armenian parliamentary elections held in single-seat districts. Many of them are routinely accused by the media and opposition of bribing and bullying voters.
About two dozen businesspeople linked to the Republican Party were elected to the current Armenian parliament under the proportional representation system in 2007. A similar number of other entrepreneurs got elected on an individual basis.